CITY HALL — A Santa Monica resident known for his website that shares DUI checkpoint locations has found himself on the other side of the coin fighting a civil rights case with City Hall over a 2011 incident in which he was arrested on suspicion of driving drunk.
Sennett Devermont, the man behind mrcheckpoint.com, alleged in a lawsuit filed last year that the Santa Monica police officer who pulled him over for an illegal right-hand turn against a red light violated his rights by arresting him out of retaliation after Devermont refused to perform a field sobriety test.
That resulted in a towed car, the loss of prescribed pain killers and Devermont’s two medium-sized dogs being taken to the Santa Monica Animal Shelter. He was released on Christmas morning.
A blood test taken that night later confirmed that Devermont was not under the influence of either drugs nor alcohol, and the City Attorney’s Office dropped the DUI case against him.
The painkillers were prescribed to him for a recent surgery.
Devermont, however, believes that his night spent in jail constituted a violation of his rights and his attorney, Mary Prevost, agrees.
“It was patently obvious that this was a retaliation arrest,” Prevost said. “He is entitled to say no to the police officer.”
City Attorney Carol Rohr, who is representing the officer involved, believes that the officer had no choice but to bring him in given that he saw Devermont driving erratically and then refused to take a field sobriety test.
“It could have been so easily resolved if Mr. Devermont, instead of taking a political, or legal, or stubborn stance, just allowed the officer to conduct the field sobriety test so that the officer could have convinced himself that Mr. Devermont was not under the influence of a controlled substance and Mr. Devermont could have gone on his way,” Rohr said.
The officer established probable cause when he allegedly saw Devermont’s car make the illegal turn and then didn’t stop for almost two blocks after he turned on his squad car lights. When he did, he turned into the exit lane of a Starbucks, Rohr said.
Devermont is suing for damages and wants the officer, who was the subject of another civil rights case that settled after two trials ended in hung juries, fired.
“To me, it’s about being held accountable for what occurred. I spent the night in jail, my dogs were in the pound, I paid pound fees, paid to get out of jail and they took my Oxycodone,” Devermont said. “I needed that for pain for the surgery, and they destroyed that. Who’s accountable for that?”
The lawsuit is expected to proceed to trial in October.
Devermont is no stranger to DUI law. His website collects information about DUI checkpoints and broadcasts it to those interested. He thinks of it as a public service that has encouraged people to hail cabs or rent hotel rooms rather than risk getting behind the wheel.